Monthly Archives: October 2007

Infighting in the Al Durah Affair

While Palestinians think of the Israel PR machine as a well-oiled monolith, and people who see the tapes of the al Durah affair want to know why Israelis don’t say anything, the turmoil within Israeli diplomatic circles continues. An insight into why Israel has said nothing so far, and continues to have difficulty saying anything even now, comes from this piece interviewing Philippe Karsenty during his recent trip to NYC. He fires directly at the players in Israeli diplomatic circles.

Does Israel Want To Drop Al-Dura Case?

Phillipe Karsanty’s trial will pivot on the unedited news film of Al-Dura’s shooting.
by Jonathan Mark
Associate Editor

Phillipe Karsenty, a French media monitor who is appealing his conviction in France for libelously charging that the state television’s news footage of the intifada’s most iconic death of a Palestinian child, supposedly by Israeli bullets, was either faked or staged by the Palestinians, is getting increasing support, he says — but not from the Israeli ambassador to France.
Karsenty, speaking in New York to The Jewish Week, said Israel’s ambassador to France, Daniel Shek, refuses to even shake Karsenty’s hand, let alone support him.

According to Karsenty, “Shek seems more interested in going to cocktail parties than to defend the image of the country he is supposed to serve.” Karsenty says he was told by Shek, “Leave me alone. I’m not interested by this case. I don’t want to hear about you.”

I don’t know about this personally. But there are serious problems with Israeli diplomatic circles that cannot be addressed easily. There is always a tension between representing the country you come from and making friends in the country where you serve. This is compounded by a double problem. First, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tends decidedly towards PCP. Al Durah represents anathema to many of them because it “impairs the peace process.” (This is my theory for why, under Barak, in the immediate aftermath of the al Durah incident, he and other top figures opposed any questioning of the footage because he so desperately (and foolishly) wanted to get back to the negotiating table. Thus when a colleague at a major school of communications asked his chairman to invite me to present on Pallywood back in 2005, the chairman called the Israeli consulate and asked whether he should invite me. “Absolutely not, Landes is a right-winger who just wants to prevent the peace process.” This is my response.

The second part of this problem resides in Europe, where the “host” culture is so vehemently anti-Israel. As a result, in order to make nice, Israeli diplomats find themselves often taking positions that concede enormous ground just in order to be accepted. When this is linked to the obvious blandishments of high society, the temptation to play to the wrong audience can be well-nigh irresistable.

Attempts to reach Shek have been unsuccessful.

Text of GPO Director Danny Seaman’s Letter to Shurat Ha-Din

As reported in an earlier post, GPO Director Danny Seaman responded to the NGO Shurat Ha-Din’s demand that he revoke France2′s press credentials with a harsh letter criticizing France2. Here is a translation (thanks to LB) of the text:

Roie Kochavi, Esq.
“Shurat HaDin”

Re: Rescinding of Credentials of Journalists from the Team of the Station “France 2”

In response to your requests from the dates 2/1/07, 6/20/07, and 9/19/07

First, accept my apologies on the great delay in responding to your requests. The delay stems from the need to investigate in great depth the many materials connected to the matter.

In your letter you demand that the State of Israel revoke the credentials of the employees of the French television network “France 2” (henceforth- “ the network”) in Israel, because of the report that was aired under their auspices on 9/30/2000, known as the “Muhammad A-Dura Affair”.

Much has been written regarding the events of that day and the conduct of the network. The reporter for the network, Mr. Charles Enderlin, broadcast on that day a dispatch on the events at Netzarim Junction, according to which, a Palestinian father and his son- hereafter known as the child “Muhammad A-Dura” (and in French ‘Le petit Muhammad’)- chanced into a crossfire between I.D.F. forces and Palestinian civilians, that continued for 45 minutes. According to the reporter, despite the best efforts of the father to plead before the Israeli forces, these people killed this doomed child and injured his father.

The painful pictures that were broadcast around the world spread like wildfire. In May 2001, the Mitchell Report that investigated the background to the violent events that erupted in September 2000, emphasized the centrality of Muhammad A-Dura footage as one of the primary reasons for the intensification of the wave of violence. The Muhammad A-Dura incident was even explicitly acknowledged in a number of suicide attacks in Israel and in the murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl as a reason for the murderous acts. Muhammad A-Dura turned into a symbol in the Arab world and is used as a source for the denunciation and demonization of the State of Israel and the I.D.F. across the world.

Reports of the incident, which includes charging the I.D.F. and the State of Israel with intentional fire at civilians, and with premeditated killing of the child Muhammad A-Dura, were broadcast without allowing any Israeli source the possibility of response or investigation of the circumstances. The State of Israel did indeed take responsibility for the incident, via the response of the head of the I.D.F. Operations Division, Gen. Giora Eiland, but this was based on the information that was broadcast.

Who Started the Intifada? Jews blame themselves

Jason Maoz, dripping with sarcasm, reviews the inane eagerness of the Israeli and Jewish media to blame Israel for the Intifada. As he puts it, the statements he collects should be “a death blow to the illusion of Jewish intellectual superiority.” More of the same from the crowd that now argues, “What does it matter who killed the boy?”

Flashback: Blaming Israel For The Intifada
By: Jason Maoz, Senior Editor
Date Posted: September 25, 2007

There are times, admittedly few and far between, when the Monitor is rendered speechless. Such a time came seven years ago this week, with the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.

Though the violence initially was blamed on the September 28, 2000, visit to the Temple Mount by then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon and a large security entourage, Palestinian leaders would later admit that planning for the outbreak had in fact begun in July, after Yasir Arafat stormed out of Bill Clinton’s Camp David confab.

The sight of Palestinian mobs pillaging and killing, in a bloodthirsty frenzy reminiscent of the Arab riots of the 1920’s and 30’s, was still not enough to cure certain Jews of their chronic need to interpret events through the eyes of their enemies.

On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the death of the Oslo peace sham, this week’s soapbox is yielded to those whose stomach-turning bleating in the weeks immediately following the launch of Intifada II should have been a death blow to the illusion of Jewish intellectual superiority. The Palestinians should only be this stunningly stupid – not to mention breathtakingly craven:

● Obviously, the fuse [for the Palestinian uprising] was lit by the notorious Ariel Sharon … a man whose entire military and political career consisted of fighting Palestinians and killing them…. It is a tragic feature of what is going on now that at Camp David, Barak in principle agreed to give up many of the positions which are at present being ferociously fought over…. He agreed to give them up – but only at a stiff price of Palestinian [concessions], some of them very unpalatable and others completely unacceptable to the Palestinian side. Will he now soften those positions, at least to some degree? Having gone so far already at Camp David, can he not simply get out of the occupied territories?

– Israeli “peace activists” Adam Keller and Beate Zilversmidt.

● It is not the acceptable thing to say, but this truth must be stated: Only through force have the Arabs achieved what they have achieved, throughout the Arab-Israeli conflict, and certainly in the last 30 years. From Yom Kippur of 5734 (1973) to Rosh Hashana of 5761 (2000), not only has violence paid off for the Arabs, but we have also shown them that violence is the only way open to them…. It certainly cannot be said that [Israeli Arabs] did not first try nonviolent means. Twenty-five years of exemplary, almost exaggerated loyalty … to the state whose wars are not their wars, whose national anthem is not their anthem, whose language is not their language, whose holidays are not their holidays – and for all this [Israel] treats them the way it does.
– Gideon Levy, columnist, Haaretz.

● The massacre of Palestinians in recent days will be with us for many years…. The IDF did not defend Israel. Israel was not in danger…. It is permissible to kill a child in the arms of his father and to afterward deny that killing “because he had no reason to be there.” It is permissible to shoot rockets at demonstrators…. It is permissible to use violence to make others surrender. And as usual, in summing up the entire event, human life is important only when the human is not Arab.
– Yitzhak Laor, columnist, Haaretz.

● Those [in Israel] who declare that there is no partner for peace are in effect proclaiming that they are in the middle of a war…. And that is how a few hundred Palestinians armed with MK-17 assault rifles have led a strong nation – one with a nuclear option and a powerful army – to adopt the mood that it is now waging a “war of survival.” In the meantime, the leaders of this strong nation are fueling the paranoia…
– Meron Benvinisti, columnist, Haaretz.

● Israelis should atone for their inability to see themselves as the major military power of the region and for their constant use of disproportionate force to repress an essentially unarmed population. Israelis should atone for not being able to recognize as the superior force with the greater responsibility to compromise and respect the needs of the less powerful.
– Michael Lerner, Tikkun magazine.

● The horrible deaths of the two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah should serve as a lesson to Israel that the violence it has shown to the Palestinians and Arab Israelis in the past only serves to further the Middle East conflict…. In the wake of the recent clashes, Israel needs to re-evaluate its policy toward the Arabs. Prime Minister Ehud Barak should not react with further violence….
– Goldie Fleischman, Baltimore (letter to The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2000 [which of course the Times rapidly published -- rl]).

I especially like Gideon Levy. It’s one thing to have the Palestinians project their “force and only force” mentality onto the Israelis, but to have Israelis repeat it as if it’s true…

Evidence Mounts: Inflammatory Image was Staged

Article by Elliot Resnick on the affair. Except for the paper’s using the image of the boy before the “shooting” rather than the one when he’s supposedly dead, I have no complaints.

Evidence Mounts: Inflammatory Image Was Staged
By: Elliot Resnick, Jewish Press Staff Reporter
Date Posted: October 10, 2007

It inflamed Arab passions. It appeared at anti-Israel rallies across the globe. Osama bin Laden invoked it during one of his post-9/11 videos.

“It” is the image of young Mohammed al-Dura dying in the lap of his father, struck down by Israeli bullets on September 30, 2000.

But who killed the boy? Or was he killed at all? After reading a June 2003 investigative report in Atlantic Monthly and researching the matter himself, Richard Landes, a Boston University history professor-cum-novice investigator, concluded that Palestinian Arabs staged the entire episode.

The angle of the shots, the absence of blood, movement from the boy after his death, missing footage and evidence from other footage indicating that Palestinian Arabs have previously staged “Israeli brutality” scenes support his claim, Landes told The Jewish Press.

He maintains two websites (theaugeanstables.com and seconddraft.org) and has produced three documentaries on the subject.

His cause may have received a boost last month when a French court ordered France2, the station that first aired the al-Dura footage, to hand over the entire 27 minutes of its cameraman’s footage to the court. Landes, who has seen the footage, said the court will see multiple examples of staged injuries and evacuations on the tape.

Back in 2000, the image of an al-Dura killed in cold blood operated as a “get out of Holocaust guilt free card” for many Europeans, Landes said. Indeed, Catherine Nay of Europe1 said at the time that the image “annuls, erases that of the little boy in the Warsaw ghetto.”

“As a medievalist,” Landes said, “I’m familiar with blood libels…. This is the first blood libel of the 21st century…. It opened the door for comparing the Israelis to the Nazis. It mainstreamed it…. It played a huge role in shifting public opinion.”

Noting that the al-Dura episode occurred on the second day of the Intifada, Landes argues that it may, in fact, have caused the prolonged Intifada, which otherwise may have resembled the 1996 Arab riots.

(Interestingly, he remarked, on the Intifada’s first day, another false image appeared – this time in the New York Times, which ran a picture of a bloody-faced man with a caption labeling him as Palestinian when he was in fact Jewish-American.)

“I couldn’t believe that the mainstream media would pass this on as news,” Landes said.

According to French journalist Daniel Leconte, when he questioned France2 about Arab-staged injuries, a representative of France2 smiled and replied, “Yes, but you know well that it’s always like that.”

Landes has made some headway in his work. Roughly 250,000 visitors to seconddraft.org and YouTube have seen his documentary “Pallywood,” – his term for “the systematic staging of scenes to convey the basic framework of Israel Goliath, Palestinian David.”

And although Israel has largely shied away from the issue (apparently in the belief that any coverage of the al-Dura case is bad coverage), the IDF recently asked France2 to release the footage, which may have influenced the French court’s decision, Landes said.

Additionally, last week, Israeli Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman declared the al-Dura affair a “blood libel” and said “that the events of that day were essentially staged.”

Aiming to stop future “al-Dura” scenarios, Landes wants news agencies and the public to be aware “that they’re being manipulated and stop that manipulation.” He urges people to sign his petition (on petitiononline.com) asking France2 to release its footage to the public so that people could see this important illustration of “Pallywood.”

“We will not survive if we don’t get smarter,” he said.

take 6

France 2 a accepté de remettre ses rushes de l’incident al-Dura à la Cour d’appel

Veronique Chemla, one of the best journalists covering the Al Durah trials, reports on events in court October 3, 2007, and explores the thundering silence of the French media and especially France2 in dealing with this case. Dishonesty? Rules of the game? Text in French comments in English.

France 2 a accepté de remettre ses rushes de l’incident al-Dura à la Cour d’appel de Paris

Par Véronique Chemla pour Guysen International News
Mardi 9 octobre 2007 à 21:17

Le 3 octobre 2007, la 11e chambre de la Cour d’appel de Paris a rendu un arrêt demandant aux intimés – France 2 et son correspondant à Jérusalem, Charles Enderlin -, de lui communiquer, avant le 31 octobre 2007, les rushes filmés par le cameraman palestinien Talal Abu Rahma le 30 septembre 2000, dans la bande de Gaza. Me Bénédicte Amblard, avocate des intimés, a transmis l’accord de ses clients. Si l’affaire al-Dura a pris une dimension politique en Israël, elle est largement occultée par les médias français.

Première ou unique inflexion de la position de France 2 et de Charles Enderlin ?

C’est en tout cas contraints par la Cour d’appel, qui a accueilli la demande de l’appelant, Philippe Karsenty, directeur de l’agence de notation des médias Media-Ratings (M-R), que les deux intimés acceptent enfin de montrer publiquement ces rushes.

Et ce, afin de permettre à la Cour de déterminer si France 2 a diffusé, lors du déclenchement de l’Intifadah II, des images mises en scène et ne correspondant pas à la situation réelle au carrefour de Netzarim (bande de Gaza), à l’automne 2000. Pas moins !

Sur son blog, Charles Enderlin se déclarait le 20 septembre « extrêmement satisfait du souhait de la cour d’appel de Paris de visionner les rushes tournés le 30 septembre et le 1 octobre 2000 par Talal Abou Rahmeh le correspondant de France 2 à Gaza » (1).

Que ne s’est-il exécuté en sept ans, et notamment à l’automne 2006 lorsque Philippe Karsenty et Charles Gouze, webmaster de Desinfos.com, ont formulé cette requête devant le tribunal correctionnel de Paris !

Confusion ou lapsus révélateur du journaliste ? C’est Tsahal, et non la Cour, qui a demandé les rushes de ces deux dates. Est-ce à dire que Charles Enderlin va accéder aussi à la requête similaire de l’armée de l’Etat juif réitérée le 10 septembre 2007 ? Rien de moins sûr car il refuse de livrer ces 27 minutes de rushes à « un organisme qui serait partie prenante dans cette affaire ».

Chemla notes the interesting error of Charles Enderlin who, on his blog, announces that he’s eager to show the rushes — but then gives the dates of September 30 and October 1, which the court did not demand, but the Israelis did. And if he’s so eager, why did he not show them long ago? Ever the bluffer.

Ces rushes seront visionnés par la Cour d’appel de Paris lors de l’audience du 14 novembre prochain. Philippe Karsenty les découvrira seulement ce jour-là. Ce qui est peu satisfaisant au regard des droits de la défense.

Le visionnage des rushes « permettra de crever l’abcès, de montrer l’authenticité des images » poursuit le correspondant de France 2 qui, comme Jamal al-Dura, maintient ses déclarations initiales.

The idea that 21 minutes of patent staging will somehow “lance the boil and show the authenticity of the footage” calls into question Enderlin’s sanity.

D’une manière surprenante, Jamal al-Dura a déclaré (Ynetnews.com, 2 octobre 2007) : « Les balles était israéliennes. Les tirs venaient du côté israélien et seulement de ce côté. Les balles dans mon corps et celles de mon fils venaient de face, ce qui prouve qu’elles venaient du poste israélien ». Or, le poste israélien ne se trouvait pas en face d’eux, mais du côté opposé du carrefour de Netzarim (cf. carte où les al-Dura se trouvent derrière « the barrel »).

intersection map

Aucun des deux protagonistes ne semble ébranlé par les affirmations graves de Tsahal.

The reason Jamal isn’t disturbed by the seriously damaging accusations of the IDF is that he assumes that he’s covered, that he can make statements like “the bullets clearly came from the Israeli position” because he has no idea how much we now know that we didn’t when he and Talal first made their claims. Oh would some reporter had the nerve to ask, “Were you aware that some of the bullets that hit the wall came from Palestinian fire?”

Une armée dont l’avis exprimé dans un courrier du 10 septembre 2007 et adressé par le colonel Shlomi Am-Shalom, adjoint du porte-parole de Tsahal, notamment à Charles Enderlin et Patrick de Carolis, président de France Télévision, est dévastateur pour les intimés : « L’analyse de toutes les données sur le terrain, l’emplacement de la position de Tsahal, les angles de tir, l’emplacement du père et de son fils derrière un tonneau leur servant d’abri, la fréquence des tirs, les angles de pénétration des balles dans le mur placé derrière le père et le fils ainsi que le timing de l’évènement, rendaient hautement improblable que les tirs ayant soi-disant atteint le père et son fils aient pu être tirés par les soldats de Tsahal se trouvant dans cette position… Le général Samia m’a précisé que toutes ses tentatives d’obtenir les prises de vue pour compléter l’enquête ont été vouées à l’échec… Nous sommes conscients de tentatives de mises en scène médiatisées et comme un doute s’est insinué à cet égard envers ledit reportage, nous demandons [une copie complète non montée] afin de découvrir la vérité ».

D’une « mise en scène » filmée à une affaire judiciaire et politique

Des accusations graves reprises, pour la première fois par écrit, par le responsable du service de presse du gouvernement israélien (GPO), Daniel Seaman.

Fin septembre 2007, celui-ci affirme à l’association israélienne d’avocats Shurat HaDin (2) : « Les faits ne se sont pas produits comme Charles Enderlin les a décrits car la version de ce dernier contredit les lois de la physique. Il était impossible [aux soldats israéliens] de toucher [les al-Dura] qui se cachaient… Le cameraman Talal Abu Rahma a mis en scène tout l’incident… La création du mythe Mohamed al-Dura a causé un grand préjudice à l’Etat d’Israël et enflammé le monde arabe. [Cette] accusation contemporaine de meurtre rituel (blood libel) portée contre cet Etat a causé des dizaines de morts en Israël et dans le monde ».

Daniel Seaman estime aussi que France 2 a « manqué de professionnalisme… Aucune vérification sur [la] crédibilité [des images de l’incident al-Dura] n’a été faite avant leur diffusion ».

Peut-être par crainte de s’aliéner une chaîne importante et de susciter des réactions corporatistes, les autorités publiques israéliennes ont refusé la voie judiciaire et privilégié un « traitement médiatique ». Après consultation du conseiller juridique du gouvernement Menachem Mazuz, Daniel Seaman n’a pas accédé à la demande de Shurat HaDin : il n’a pas retiré son accréditation à l’équipe de France 2.

Yes, fear of alienating so important a news channel and of provoking reactions from the press corps (which will back Enderlin in this), has the Israelis afraid to deal with this head on.

Sur le site Internet anglophone du Premier ministre, aucun communiqué de presse ne contredit Daniel Seaman dont les déclarations suscitent des réflexions.

En qualifiant de « mise en scène » l’incident al-Dura, Daniel Seaman vise le camaraman palestinien Talal Abu Rahma, collaborateur de France 2 et CNN. Perverse, cynique et économe, l’Autorité palestinienne (AP) réserve donc à une oligarchie l’essentiel de la manne financière internationale et ferait payer les « mises en scène » de Pallywood, son industrie de propagande audiovisuelle, par des médias occidentaux, privés et peut-être plus grave publics. Un mécanisme qui confèrerait ainsi à ces « mises en scène » un label d’impartialité et un gage d’authenticité, accroîtrait leur crédibilité, duperait les téléspectateurs et engagerait la responsabilité de ceux qui les financent et les distribuent. A la différence de films de fiction qui se présentent comme tels – La Porte du soleil (2004) de Yousry Nasrallah, Paradise now (2005) de Hany Abu-Assad –, Pallywood produit des « actualités fictives », un oxymore qui désigne ces saynètes inventées, mises en scène et jouées par les Palestiniens et présentées aux médias comme des histoires authentiques. Via des canaux mondiaux de diffusion, ces deux genres visent à ternir l’image de l’Etat juif, et sont parfois primés.

La « mise en scène » de l’incident al-Dura date d’une époque où l’AP était dirigée, notamment dans la bande de Gaza, par le Fatah, un parti qui a créé, encouragé, soutenu et promu Pallywood. Son leader, Mahmoud Abbas, est considéré par le gouvernement Olmert, l’administration Bush et des diplomaties européennes comme « un partenaire pour la paix ». Pour parfaire son image d’interlocuteur « modéré » luttant contre le terroriste Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas a allégué, faussement, que ses forces à Bethlehem venaient de saisir deux roquettes prêtes à être lancées contre Israël à partir de la banlieue de Beit Jala et les avaient remises à Tsahal (Washington Post, 30 septembre 2007). Ces roquettes étaient en fait des tuyaux utilisés par les enfants palestiniens. Et c’est avec les fieffés menteurs de Pallywood que le gouvernement israélien veut signer un accord de paix ?!

En judiciarisant l’affaire al-Dura, France 2 et Charles Enderlin ont enclenché un mécanisme aux effets multiples, inattendus et doté d’un effet boomerang :

- désormais, c’est le fleuron du service public audiovisuel français, son correspondant et le travail de son équipe qui intéressent, non seulement le gouvernement israélien, Tsahal, des médias étrangers, des associations française et américaines, mais aussi la justice hexagonale ;

- stigmatisant la « politique de l’autruche de la diplomatie israélienne qui a induit un préjudice important à l’Etat d’Israël, aux communautés juives du monde entier », Shurat HaDin entend s’adresser à la Haute Cour de justice israélienne afin d’obtenir le retrait des accréditifs si France 2 ne reconnaît pas publiquement avoir faussement accusé l’Etat juif d’avoir tué un enfant palestinien. Cette association songe à solliciter des dommages intérêts pour les victimes de la violence induite par l’incident al-Dura. De nombreuses audiences en perspective…

- coïncidence : le jour-même où s’ouvrait le procès sur l’incident al-Dura devant la Cour d’appel devenait définitive la condamnation de Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala pour diffamation raciale à l’égard du comédien-animateur Arthur en raison de ses déclarations à ’’The Source’’ (janvier 2004) : ’’Beaucoup de personnes dans mon métier sont juives… Arthur avec sa société de production finance de manière très active l’armée israélienne, cette même armée qui n’hésite pas à tuer des enfants palestiniens’’. De quoi inspirer Shurat HaDin qui représente dans « des procès – en Israël, aux Etats-Unis, au Canada et en Europe – ou dans des actions légales contre l’AP, le Hamas, l’Iran, la Syrie, le Jihad islamique et l’Union européenne les centaines de victimes israéliennes du terrorisme palestinien et les Arabes palestiniens accusés de travailler pour l’Etat d’Israël et contre l’Autorité palestinienne ».

Une double « exception française » médiatique ?

Alors que des médias, israéliens ou non – Associated Press, AFP en anglais, Cyberpresse, Romandie news, De Standaard, DePers, Le Soir, L’orient le jour -, et la revue de presse israélienne éditée par l’ambassade de France en Israël ont fait part des déclarations du GPO, la presse française – hormis ClubObs, L’Express, La Tribune, Actualité juive – et la newsletter de l’ambassade d’Israël en France restent étonnament silencieuses sur les derniers rebondissements de l’affaire al-Dura (3).

Un mutisme étrange ou un oubli peu banal. En tout cas, un symptôme inquiétant dans un pays libre : « Un journalisme malade, c’est la démocratie en danger » rappelle la Fedération europénne des journalistes (FEJ), le 27 septembre 2007.

This silence in the French media is all the more striking since the minute the judgment against Karsenty appeared last year, the French MSM, which did not cover the trial at all in its early stages, all of a sudden found its voice and announced triumphantly that the court had confirmed the validity of the “image choc de l’Intifada” of Muhammad al Durah (which it did not).

Occultée par des médias français, l’affaire al-Dura n’est pas seulement dans l’actualité judiciaire. Elle rassemble des interrogations sur le rôle des informations, rumeurs et propagandes dans la formation des opinions publiques, au centre notamment de la 10e édition des Rendez-vous de l’Histoire à Blois (18-21 octobre). Citons l’Association Yad Layeled qui y organise, le 21 octobre, à 14 h, la projection du documentaire Décryptage de Jacques Tarnero dans la salle capitulaire du Conseil général, et, de 16 h à 17h30, la table-ronde « La guerre moderne et l’information » dans l’amphi 3 de l’antenne universitaire de Blois, place Jean Jaurès.

Comme si le refoulé parvenait à affleurer. Malgré tout…

Ces rebondissements dans l’affaire al-Dura surgissent alors que diverses instances insistent sur les devoirs des médias et que la singularité de l’attitude de France 2 apparaît avec plus de relief.

D’une part, le 1er octobre 2007, le Comité des Ministres du Conseil de l’Europe adoptait des Lignes directrices sur la protection de la liberté d’expression et d’information en temps de crise : ces lignes directrices soulignent les « responsabilités des professionnels des médias qu’elles invitent à respecter les plus hautes règles éthiques et professionnelles, eu égard à la responsabilité qu’ils ont, dans des situations de crise, de rendre publiques des informations factuelles et exhaustives ».

Thomas Hammarberg, commissaire aux droits de l’Homme dudit Conseil, précisait : « Les rédacteurs en chef et autres représentants des médias devraient se montrer attentifs aux critiques formulées au sujet de la qualité de certains de leurs articles ou reportages… Les médias « officiels » doivent exercer leur activité de manière impartiale et dans l’intérêt de l’ensemble de la population. Il convient, bien entendu, que les médias de « service public » ne deviennent pas les instruments d’une propagande. Leur indépendance et leur impartialité revêtent une importance capitale » (4).

D’autre part, lors de la guerre d’Israël contre le Hezbollah, le 7 août 2006, Reuters a retiré 920 clichés de son photographe depuis plus de dix ans, Adnan Hajj, car celui-ci avait « modifié » numériquement deux photos. Et ce, sans attendre une décision de justice… En étant convaincu par les arguments de simples internautes, de bloggers.

Le 29 septembre 2007, The Jerusalem Post publiait l’article de Khaled Abu Toameh, journaliste réputé, sur un « scoop » confié par le Fatah basé à Ramallah : une Palestinienne de 16 ans aurait été victime en juillet 2007 dans la bande de Gaza d’un crime dit « d’honneur » filmé. Ce qui pouvait être vérifié auprès « deux témoins oculaires ». Alerté par des bloggers que ledit film avait été réalisé en Iraq en avril 2007, ce quotidien retirait dès le lendemain de son site Internet l’article incriminé, publiait les excuses de son journaliste et rétablissait la vérité : pour discréditer le Hamas et se présenter comme le seul interlocuteur « fréquentable », le Fatah avait manipulé Khaled Abu Toameh ; les faux témoins étaient d’anciens officiers de la sécurité du Fatah. Des rectificatifs tout à l’honneur de ce média israélien.

France 2 a été alertée par plusieurs personnalités, dont trois journalistes émérites – Denis Jeambar, Daniel Leconte, Luc Rozensweig – ayant visionné les rushes du 30 septembre 2000. Les deux premiers attestent : les Palestiniens «jouent» à la guerre avec les Israéliens et simulent, dans la plupart des cas, des blessures imaginaires… Au moment où Charles Enderlin donne le gamin pour mort, tué par les Israéliens, c’est-à-dire le soir même sur le journal de France 2, rien ne lui permet d’affirmer qu’il est vraiment mort et encore moins qu’il a été tué par des soldats israéliens » (Le Figaro, 25 janvier 2005).

Arlette Chabot, directrice de l’information de France 2, a admis une incertitude quant à l’origine des tirs ayant « tué le petit Mohamed ».

Que fera cette chaîne-phare du service public si l’arrêt de la Cour d’appel de Paris ne conclut pas comme elle l’espère ?

Ironie de la vie, les 2 et 3 octobre 2007, veille et jour de l’arrêt de ladite Cour, France 2 diffusait le téléfilm Notable donc coupable de Francis Girod. L’histoire d’une rumeur infondée ayant diffamé en 2003 le président du Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), Dominique Baudis. A celui-ci qui lui demandait de reconnaître publiquement son erreur, Florence Bouquillat, journaliste de France 2, répliquait : «On ne fait jamais ça à la télévision, voyons ! » (5)

(1) http://blog.france2.fr/charles-enderlin/index.php/2007/09/20/59110-al-dura

(2) http://www.israellawcenter.org

(3) http://www.m-r.fr/danslesmedias.php?id=65

(4) www.commissioner.coe.int

(5) Egarements et débordements médiatiques de Cyrano

La Cour d’appel de Paris demande à France 2 les rushes sur l’incident al-Dura

L’enquête vidéo sur l’affaire al-Dura

Le dossier audiovisuel al-Dura établi par Richard Landes :

L’interview de Stéphane Juffa, rédacteur en chef de la Mena :

Photos : © DR, V. Chemla. Photo des grilles du jardin du Luxembourg lors de l’exposition Objectif Une : un demi-siècle vu par L’Express (2004). La légende de la photo des al-Dura, indiquait en français, anglais et espagnol : « 30 septembre 2000. Jamal al-Dura et son fils Mohamed, âgé de 12 ans, se protègent des balles israéliennes. L’enfant sera tué ». Des passants ont supprimé les mots « israéliennes, tué ». Des barrières métalliques ont été mises pour protéger le texte.

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Radio Interview (long) with Political Pistachio

I had a long interview last night with Political Pistachio which is available here.

What Does It Matter Who Killed the Child?

Here’s a translation (thanks to LB) of an op-ed piece by Arad Nir (head of the foreign affairs desk at Channel 2) in Yediot Aharonot (Israel’s largest circulation newspaper). It illustrates how strong the “it doesn’t matter who shot him, the death of a child is tragic” trope is in Israeli opinion-forming circles. For those who might not be familiar with Israeli progressive “moral” thinking, this is as good as any introduction.

All the Children are like Yours

Arad Nir
October 3, 2007

What difference does it make which side is guilty in the death of Muhammad al Durah? There is no justice in the death of a child?

Had he not wandered with his father into a miserable gunfight between Israeli forces and Palestinians in which his life was cut short, Muhammad al-Dura would have marked his 19th birthday this year. Had Muhammad and his father stayed at home that day, or chosen to go elsewhere, al-Dura would today be roaming the streets of Gaza and helping in his family’s livelihood. Maybe he would be a student, an activist in Fatah, or even a Hamas member in a Qassam-launching squad. But, in his death that was documented by the camera of the television network France2, little Muhammad changed into the flag-bearer of the intifada. With his choosing it, he became a symbol for his countrymen who will forever remain 12 years old.

Not only is Arad sure that the boy got killed on film, but he has accepted the narrative surrounding the footage he has yet to examine carefully. The evidence of the rushes — which Arad has apparenty not viewed (does he want to?) — formally contradicts the story that the father and son “wandered into a miserable gunfight between Israeli forces and Palestinians…” The AP and Reuter’s footage suggest he was behind the barrel with his father before the “gunfight” started.

Since the photographs were broadcast almost seven years ago, a series of experts and organizations took it upon themselves to prove that the death of al-Dura was not caused as a result of Israeli fire. Courts in France and Israel have been involved with this episode for years (and in the meantime support the network’s position) and now we receive news that even the Director of the Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, gave an opinion and determined that “the employees of the France2 television network did not uphold (in their report) basic journalistic principles.” He accuses the cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma of “intentional staging and the creation of a libel against the State of Israel.”

I am certain that the head of the Government Press Office of the State of Israel is not accusing the cameraman and the television network of staging the death of al-Dura. Otherwise, surely he would not have deliberated whether to revoke the credentials of the journalists from the network, rather would have immediately lodged a complaint with the police. Instead, the head of the GPO accuses the journalists of a systematic (or intentional) report that implicates the israeli forces.

Sarcasm aside, this is one of Enderlin’s favorite lines. If the Israelis even suspected that he or Talal had done something wrong, they’d have taken away their press credentials. It’s a facetious argument, but a brilliant bluff. Both of them are protected by public opinion, and short of a court decision, the Israeli government would not move. The whole ploy plays brilliantly on the difference between a profoundly timid, intimidated Israeli government (they act like dhimmis to the MSM) and the perception of the Israelis as “no-nonsense” tough guys.

Gideon Levy’s Memory Lapse: Has he, like Enderlin, gone native?

In his “terrifying” editorial piece on al Durah, Gideon Levy, icon of the self-critical Israeli left made a remarkable statement that raises some painful questions about just how far from journalism and how deep into propaganda his work goes. Levy writes:

“As far as we can remember, there has been no other case in which Palestinians fired at the IDF and hit a Palestinian child.”

Note the presumably royal “we.” Lazar Berman, whose essay on honor-shame in the Israeli army I posted below, writes:

Apparently he does not even remember, or chooses not to remember, June 18th of this year, when Palestinian terrorists opened fire on the Israeli soldiers manning the Erez checkpoint. Their gunfire missed the soldiers, but did find Palestinian civilians. One was killed, and more than 10 were injured…including at least one child.

How do I know this?

I was there. I was commanding the troops inside of Erez, and those bullets flew over my head. The Palestinians brought their injured toward our position in the hope that we would grant them medical attention (which was ultimately granted). I saw the casualties from a distance of ten meters.

And an article on the incident appeared in Levy’s own paper, Haaretz. And this is not the only incident of such kind of event. Indeed, sacrificing children for the sake of propaganda victories — which people like Vanessa Redgrave eagerly supply — is part of Palestinian strategy.

Which brings us to our disturbing questions. Is Levy that uninformed and unaware that this kind of stuff goes on all the time, that he can make such a remark in good conscience? If so, he demonstrates not only a profound ignorance of the dynamics at work in the area of his own expertise, but an aggressive refusal to acknowledge anything of the sort. Or is it worse. Is he, like Charles Enderlin, so accustomed to lying to both himself and others, that he no longer realizes what it sounds like to an informed public… that such a statement brands him as either incompetent or dishonest?

Elihu Stone responds to Gideon Levy’s “terrifying” take on Al Durah: Will Ha-aretz Publish the letter?

On one level, the blogosphere represents all those “letter to the editor” that never gets published. Here’s one from Elihu Stone to Ha-Aretz in response to Gideon Levy’s column on the al Durah Affair (fisked below). Will they publish it? I doubt it. But here it is, with permission of the author (emphasis mine).

Dear Sir/madam:

I read Gideon Levy’s story “Mohammed al-Dura lives on” appearing in today’s online version of Ha’aretz in utter disbelief.

After all, haven’t we been raised on the media’s mantra that journalism is all about discovering the truth? Most media outlets seem rather anxious to have us believe this. Indeed, the journalist’s claim to having uncovered ‘the real facts’ is the very source of the media’s pretension to moral authority. The Pulitzer Prize is reserved for folks who uncover the truth of events, like Watergate, or Vietnam, or the Rosenberg trial. Conversely, the standard fare of scandal is obfuscation of the truth by those in positions of authority. We generally condemn folks who lie in order to advance their personal agendas and take umbrage when their positions are questioned. For all the good that President William Jefferson Clinton accomplished in some areas, there was a visceral public reaction to his legendary prevarication “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Similarly, when President George W. Bush, Sr. said “Read my lips; no new taxes,” the American people expected him to keep his word. It seems to me, by the way, that deliberate misstatements about the past are more reprehensible than getting the future wrong, because some leeway might be allowed for promising a future that one does not irrevocably control. The past however, is composed of events, that people can acknowledge, or lie about, as they choose.

When a news analyst tells us that facts do not matter, it is time to sit up and take notice.
What are we to make of a newspaper article that explicitly excuses, and perhaps endorses, the ignorance of actual history in favor of manufactured “facts” that support the author’s particular political views? Mr. Levy would have us believe that it just does not matter who killed Mohammed Al-Dura. I beg to disagree.

Insights into Honor-Shame Culture: Reflections of an American-born Israeli Officer among Bedouin Soldiers

[Note: This essay by Lazar Berman, a BU graduate who made aliyah and served in the Isaeli Defense Forces, explores one of the major themes to which this blog is dedicated. It deals with his experiences as an officer in the IDF serving with Bedouin troops. I thank him for writing it at my request, and allowing me to post it here at my blog. rl]

But why should honor outlive honesty?” Shakespeare, Othello.

Truly your blood, your property, and your honor are inviolable.” Muhammad, Saheeh Al Bukhari, # 1739.

I sat astounded. My bewilderment turned to indignation with each passing minute. There I was, a young infantry lieutenant in the Israel Defense Force, struggling to understand my fellow commanders. Why were they deliberately misrepresenting our situation? Did they not want to deal with the many problems in our company and thus improve themselves and their soldiers?

The North was burning. It was the summer of 2006, and I was a platoon commander in the newest company of recruits in the Bedouin Scout Battalion 585 of the Israel Defense Force. The 585 is the only unit of its kind in Western militaries. Its soldiers come exclusively from Israel’s Arab communities. The majority of soldiers and almost all of the officers’ corps come from Israel’s sizeable Bedouin minority. There is a large number of Muslim Arabs who are not Bedouin, called Felahim, as well several Christian Arabs. The only non-Arabs are the occasional Circassian, and Jewish officers transferred in to fill command positions when the battalion lacks the manpower to do so.

I was the only Jew in my company. Upon completing the eight month Officers School in February 2006, I requested a position in the 585. I had done my basic training on the same base as their recruits, and had several Bedouin friends from various courses we had completed together. I admired the battalion’s singular mission and its soldiers’ bravery, and I saw an opportunity to discover a new facet of Israeli society while instructing young Arab Israelis who had volunteered for service. Naïve, maybe, but to me this was real Zionism.

Our soldiers had been inducted four months earlier, and the company staff was involved in a two-day workshop on the coast of Netanya after successfully guiding the soldiers through basic training. The workshop was run by two women, organizational consultants brought in from the civilian sector. The presence of two civilians who had never fired a shot in their lives and their mandate to critique combat decisions is a symptom of the IDF’s current overreliance on sensibilities and characters that have nothing to do with the military. That aside, there was another issue at work in the classroom, one specific to my battalion. It is not an issue that the consultants were willing to explore and unlikely they even considered, but dealing with it honestly provides a clear and tangible case study for the larger cultural context that is responsible for the state of the Middle East today.

I consider myself a believing Westerner- that is, I believe in most Western ideals and modes of thought. I was educated with these values, and I brought them with me to the army and to the workshop. For me, this was a rare chance to air my platoon’s shortcomings and receive the views of my peers in the company staff. In my mind, an honest and sometimes emotional confrontation of our miscalculations as commanders was about to unfold, resulting in a refreshing gust in our sails as we readied ourselves to take our soldiers through three grueling summer months of advanced training- unless our efforts were needed on one of the Second Lebanon War’s two fronts. This is what the workshop intended. As we came across issues where we as commanders had erred, I eagerly offered a harsh criticism of my own conduct, and diplomatically but firmly commented on that of others. I was the only one doing so. The other commanders, almost all Bedouin save a Muslim and Christian Arab, painted a rosier picture. They took every pain to convince the consultants that there was not a single problem in the company. Their typical response was a smile, an assertion that things were going smoothly, which would be received with an affirmation from another commander that all was well.

They could not have been farther from the truth. We were presiding over a company that had begun a dangerous spiral downward after a strong start to basic training. Our soldiers fought each other, stole from the battalion canteen, and went AWOL at a much higher rate than soldiers in regular IDF infantry companies. Some of those problems undoubtedly were the inevitable result of the battalion’s noble efforts to attract at-risk Bedouin and Arabs to the army to integrate them into Israeli society. But the majority of these norms stemmed from laziness and lack of personal example on the part of the commanders, from the squad commanders all the way to the Company CO. The staff made no effort to confront honestly any of these problems. Their goal was to make a good impression on these two civilians for the two days, without even giving minute’s thought to the potential benefits of confronting ourselves as fallible commanders. In my mind, these two consultants were never going to see us again, so there was no reason why I should care what they thought of me as a commander. And I was willing to put aside their lack of qualification. I saw a time for valuable reflection and emotional baring, crucial to our success and to that of our infantrymen. For me, the desired result was an improved staff; for the others, the aim was to present a picture as positive as possible.

The consultants were ignorant of the dynamic in the group. As a result, their conclusion was that my platoon was the weaker of the two, and that I was overly critical of a company that was progressing smoothly. By the end, it became clear to me what larger cultural difference was driving commanders in the IDF to promote themselves at the direct expense of their subordinates.
What had the consultants failed to comprehend? Nothing less than the dominant feature of Arab society and politics- the Honor/Shame culture. In this culture, at its simplest, a man must strive to maintain his honor at all costs. He must fight, even lie or kill, to protect his honor and that of his family. Conversely, when a man fails to protect his honor, he is shamed. He may regain his honor by vengeance against those who shamed him, often through bloodshed.

Juffa’s Movie is now available for viewing!

Hat tip: Philippe Karsenty

The movie that Stephane Juffa of the MENA made with Nahum Shahaf (the original investigator) and Gerard Huber (author of Contre-expertise d’une mise en scene, is now available for viewing. I saw this with Gerard and Nidra Poller in Paris the summer of 2003, but, for a variety of reasons, it was not made available until now. I strongly recommend you see it. You’ll see several scenes that I used for Pallywood and al Durah.

For me, seeing this movie was the turning point, even though it failed to convince a number of people that I showed it to in the US, including media folk, which was partly why I tried a different approach.

I’d be most interested in the opinions of others.

Helpful Double Standards: Don’t call Darfur Genocide

As if to illustrate the point I made in the previous post about the disproportionate significance given to the Arab-Israeli conflict (given the casualty figures) and the powerful tendency of the talking heads to blame Israel in the no uncertain terms, thus scapegoating Israel as the main source of the world’s woes, and ignoring the really terrible things that happen elsewhere. Now we have an illustration this “effect” in practice, and the protagonists are prominent figures on the “progressive left” — Jimmy Carter and the human rights gang.

from the October 06, 2007 edition
‘Elders’ criticize West’s response to situation in Darfur

Brahimi says West ‘pampered’ rebels, while Carter calls US’s use of term ‘genocide’ to describe violence ‘unhelpful.’

By Arthur Bright

As the Darfur peace mission of the retired statesmen known as the Elders came to an end, two of their number – former UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and former US President Jimmy Carter – chastened the West for its handling of the violent situation in Sudan. The BBC reports that Mr. Brahimi – a member of the group of Elders that includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, rights advocate Graca Machel, and entrepreneur Richard Branson – chastised the West for pandering to Sudanese rebel groups that may not represent the people of Darfur.

“The international community has acted rather irresponsibly on all this in the past by pampering a lot of these people around – not really wondering whether they really represented anybody and whether they were acting responsibly,” said Mr Brahimi.

Just imagine if these same folk were to make similar — and fully justified — remarks about how the Palestinian leadership were so irresponsible as to make Western support for them “rather irresponsible.”

The BBC adds that although he praised the plans for UN-sponsored peace talks later this month in Libya, Brahimi warned that the West needs to ensure that the people of Darfur are properly represented at the talks. Brahimi’s criticism of the West’s handling of Darfur was joined by that of Mr. Carter, who singled out the United States government for its use of the term “genocide” to describe the Sundanese conflict. Reuters reports that Carter called Washington’s use of the term “genocide” was both legally inaccurate and “unhelpful.”

Again, why is genocide unhelpful when tens of thousands of civilians are killed every year, while aparthied is helpful in describing Israel when it is so inappropriate? Is is too much to suggest that it’s unhelpful in the case of the Sudanese because, however appropriate, it insults them and, in the mind of sychophants like Jimmy Carter, apartheid is helpful in the case of Israel because Carter has “selective sensitivities.” So Israel is apartheid in its attitude towards the Arabs, but Arab Muslims slaughtering black Muslims — one of the more egregious examples of those 10 million Muslims killed by Muslims in the last half century — isn’t genocide.

“There is a legal definition of genocide and Darfur does not meet that legal standard. The atrocities were horrible but I don’t think it qualifies to be called genocide,” he said. Washington is almost alone in branding the 4 1/2 years of violence in Darfur genocide. Khartoum rejects the term, European governments are reluctant to use it and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found no genocide, but that some individuals may have acted with genocidal intent. Carter, whose charitable foundation, the Carter Center, worked to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC), said: “If you read the law textbooks … you’ll see very clearly that it’s not genocide and to call it genocide falsely just to exaggerate a horrible situation I don’t think it helps.”

Given his false exaggerations about Israel, such a statement is stunningly self-contradictory. One would think a man like Carter would have trouble being so shameless.

Brahimi’s and Carter’s comments come at the end the Elders’ two-day mission to Sudan. Voice of America reports that during their visit, the Elders found that “people in Darfur were desperate for protection, despite the Sudanese government’s insistence that the situation in the region is getting better.”

Some people they visited slipped them notes full of allegations of rape and other abuse by militias aligned with the Sudanese government. The wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, told of her meeting with women in Darfur. “The first thing they told us they need security,” she said. “They need security. They gave us examples of what happened to them, even graphically, to show how women are being raped, are beaten and are brutalized. I think because they thought we may not get a clear translation, they went at length of using gestures to show us how brutal it was, the kind of assault they are subjected to.”

Although the situation in Darfur remains grim, there have been some positive signs in the last few days. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Elders earned one “victory of sorts” in the form of a pledge of $300 million from China and the Sudanese government to help rebuild Darfur. And Reuters reports that on Thursday, Ethiopia pledged 5,000 troops to a planned joint peacekeeping mission of the UN and the African Union. But AU force commander Martin Luther Agwai noted that no African nation has the military equipment that the 26,000-strong mission would require, and said that non-African nations would need to help.

Sounds like the kind of situation that calls for strong rhetoric to elicit outrage and the will to intervene to me. But apparently promises of “rebuilding” Darfur (for whom?) are more important to acquire than international will.

In addition, a report just released in Britain warns that Darfur refugees who are turned away by British government face “appalling torture and beatings” at the hands of Sudanese officials, writes The Independent of London. The report, published by the anti-genocide campaign Aegis Trust, documents the extensive abuse suffered by men deported from Britain back to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. The Aegis Trust, which helped the men escape back to Britain, condemned the government for sending the asylum-seekers back into harm’s way.

Dr James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust, said: “[British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown has shown welcome leadership on Darfur. “However, sending Darfuri survivors to Khartoum sends a message that Britain regards the Sudanese security apparatus as trustworthy – the same security apparatus responsible for the atrocities in Darfur.”

The criticism comes as the House of Lords court of appeals begins to hear “a test case that could seal the fate of hundreds of Darfuri people currently facing deportation.” The British Home Office responded to the Aegis Trust’s criticism by saying that despite “grave concerns” over the situation in Darfur, the government “[does] not think it unreasonable to expect failed asylum-seekers to relocate to Khartoum, where the Court of Appeal found there is no risk of persecution.”

Sounds like the need to downplay this tragedy is a way of avoiding getting involved. Dumping on Israel, of course, is cost free. They’ll defend themselves anyway, and we “progressives” can side with the underdog without paying the price.

What a pathetic sight. How can Carter supporters not blush for shame?

UPDATE: Pour les francophones: excellent mise-en-point par Alain Jean-Mairet.

Jews is News: What Percentage of those killed in conflicts since 1950 died in the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Hat tip fp.

The answer is, about .06% or 1 in 1700 deaths. Whereas 11 million Muslims have been killed in these conflicts, only .3% died in the Arab-Israeli conflict and over 90% were killed by fellow Muslims. The Arab Israeli conflict ranks 49th in the number of dead since 1950. (And if we were to average it out over years, it would rank even lower, is suspect since many conflicts kill large numbers in a relatively short period, whereas this one has spanned the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st with one long, unresolved conflict.)

So, ask the authors of the study that places Israel as 49th in a list of the world’s most deadly conflicts since 1950, why is it so prominent in people’s awareness that most people think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is

the world’s most dangerous conflict – and, accordingly, Israel is judged the world’s most belligerent country? For example, British prime minister Tony Blair told the U.S. Congress in July 2003 that “Terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Here it is that the poison is incubated. Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.” This viewpoint leads many Europeans, among others, to see Israel as the most menacing country on earth.

The contrast between Muslims killed by Israelis and those killed by Muslims offers the key anomaly — one might even say, disproof — of PCP: if we’re nice to them they’ll be nice to us; if Israel would stop oppressing the Palestinians we could have peace. As The authors of the piece — Gunnar Heinsohn, director of the Raphael-Lemkin-Institut für Xenophobie- und Genozidforschung at the University of Bremen and Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum — note, this outsized importance given to Israel and the emphasis on her aggressiveness,

flies in the face of the well-known pattern that liberal democracies do not aggress.

So is Israel an exception, a rogue Western democracy still rampaging through the third world pursuing the kind of messianic imperialist projects that the Europeans carried out with such wantonly lethal proficiency until the middle of the 20th century, or is it a civil democracy trying to survive in a belligerent world where killing is the norm, and peace is a pause between conflicts? And what implications do the answers (however nuanced one wishes to make them), tell us about the kinds of assumptions that underly the rush to negotiations now underway, and the advice of Walt and Mearsheimer that Israel is a burden to the West in its efforts to “get along” with the Arab and Muslim world?

These are numbers worth pondering. They can help us keep our thinking trimmed hard to the sail of the matter, help us decide between, say, the two narratives about Jenin (a culture where massacring the enemy is idealized (suicide bombing), accusing its enemies of massacring hundreds of their own people in gang executions; or a civil society where massacre is abhorred, claiming that it did everything it could (including sacrifice 23 of its men), to keep civilian casualties to a minimum).

One thing that it does highlight is the importance of the narrative in giving meaning to the killing. Somehow, deaths in the Arab Israeli conflict are more meaningful to the “world information system” than any other, an observation supported by the statistic that there are more international journalists per square inch in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

It also highlights the importance of specifically what Segev and Levy dismiss as irrelevant, and what Poller underlines: the story must be a libel. Alone, the tragic death of a child is not the issue as the Israeli moralists want to claim, it’s who killed that child. Muhammad al Durah, or Houda Ghalia’s family are not useful as an icon of war if they were killed by their own people. (Which does not mean they are not meaningful — on the contrary, they reveal the real tragedy of the region.)

Right now, only if Israel is viewed as the perpetrator, does this conflict carry the moral charge that takes it from 49th place to such singular prominence that it eclipses all other conflicts. The media may not have created that situation — certainly not singlehandedly — but it has contributed mightily, almost as much, one might say, as the Arab elites have contributed to their own people’s suffering. And it blinds us.

Balaam’s ass, where are you?

Is God Democratic? Stanley Fish Swims in Deep Water

Stanley Fish has an interesting blogpost up at the NYT on ten questions about democracy, a subject about which I am fairly opinionated. Not having the time to answer them all (lots of disagreements), I thought I’d address two of them, about women and God.

“Is God democratic?” That one’s easy. God, like Hobbes’ sovereign, requires obedience, and those who worship him must subordinate their personal desires to his will. (Here the Abraham/Isaac story is paradigmatic.) His rule, therefore, is the antithesis of democracy, which elevates individual choice to a position of primacy. That doesn’t mean, however, that God frowns on democratic states or requires a theocratic one or has any political opinions at all. (On the other hand, someone who, like Walt Whitman, believes that God is not a separate being but resides in each of us might conclude that democracy is the deity’s favored form of government.)

Well, it turns out it’s not easy at all, at least if we’re talking (presumably) about the biblical God. Unlike Hobbes’ sovereign, God’s relationship to humans is based on far more than fear, and demands something much more complex than this kind of “simple” obedience. The notion that we as free human beings don’t have obligations to each other, that we don’t have to obey a code of laws, whether they are criminal laws, civil laws, tax codes, etc., makes no sense. Democracies, like any polity, must demand obedience. What sets democracies off from monarchies and other hierarchical orders, is that they work bottom up, through voluntary obedience based on good will and a sense of mutual commitment (covenant/social contract) and not top-down through fear (Hobbes’ Leviathon).

And here, the Abraham/God relationship about Sodom and Gemorrah is paradigmatic: rather than God declaring a principle top down, the reader learns about it as an act of confrontation from bottom up: Abraham challenges him to maintain the principle. “Heaven forbid the judge of all the earth should act unjustly.” As for the Abraham/Isaac paradigm, there are far too many readings to reduce it to this simplistic formula (which is what Augustine did with the story of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil — it’s about disobedience and God is a tyrant).

The demotic reading of the biblical text depicts a God who above all wants human beings to be morally autonomous. Pace Augustine and Calvin, the core of biblical morality lies in free will. Accepting the yoke of the kingdom of heaven means accepting God’s desire that we know the difference between right and wrong, and that we treat each other well. This is why Josephus coined the term “theocracy” as a synonym for democracy (then the equivalent of the Greek isonomia or “equality before the law.” God’s rule meant that all humans were to be treated with the same respect and the same legal rights, that fairness meant mutuality not hierarchy of privilege.

So the paradox, which apparently escapes so many, is that what God apparently wants is voluntary obedience, and the highest form of that obedience comes not — as Macchiavelli and Hobbes would have it, from predictable fear — but from unpredictable love and loyalty. In my reading of the origins of civil society in the West (i.e., in its current form, democracy), the key players were not a small group of intellectuals reading Greek sources (precious few) in praise of democracy. On the contrary, the basic building blocks were those commoners, empowered by vernacular translations of the Bible, who took upon themselves voluntarily the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. They constitute the core citizenry upon which any democratic — i.e., voluntary — polity is built.

There are two monotheistic political formulae:

1) the imperial — One God, one king (ruler), one religion; and
2) the demotic: No king but God; and God is too great for any one religion.

The latter is not only the path to democracy, but the way to deal with to the (inevitable, fruitful) tensions between Judaism, Christianity, Islam and secularism.

So my answer to the question is: Yes. God smiles on democracy. And you don’t need Emersonian transendentalism — which can easily slip over into ego inflation — to elicit that smile. See it on your neighbor.

Palestinian Rights Group Calls for Investigation into Al Durah

A Palestinian “Human Rights Group” has called for an “impartial investigation” into the Al Durah story. If you read the press release however, it’s fairly clear that ther’s no impartiality in this organization. For those who don’t know, IOF is “Israel Occupation Forces.” It’s quite clear that they already know what happened, and despite their claim to have already done an investigation, I can’t find anything at their site about “Ad-Dura.”

Rights group: Impartial investigation for 2000 killing of Muhammad al-Dura
Press Release, Al Mezan, Oct 4, 2007

The now iconic scene of Muhammad al-Dura and his father Jamal before being shot on 30 September 2000. The footage that Israel is claiming was staged was recorded by Talal Abu Rahma for France 2 TV.

The Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) claimed yesterday that the video of the murder of Muhammad Jamal al-Dura on 30 September 2000 was staged by a cameraman in Gaza. The scene of the killing of the 11-year-old boy was one of the most moving ones ever broadcast during the second intifada that had started three days before the incident.

The video shows al-Dura and his father trying to take cover behind a concrete block while the father attempts to protect his son as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened fire directly at them. The child was killed and the father was moderately injured in this incident. The video shows the child and the father in a desperate situation while neither of them pose any danger to the IOF. The video was broadcast by France 2 TV, and provoked strong condemnation at official and popular levels worldwide at the time.

Based on the GPO’s allegations, Israel stripped the credentials of the two journalists who taped the footage. The decision was approved, and therefore accepted, by Israel’s Prime Minister Office Legal Advisor. The GPO claims that IOF do not bear responsibility for killing the child.

Nevertheless, information and evidence collected by Al Mezan from the field rebut the GPO’s allegations. Al Mezan had availed its evidence to an international fact-finding mission in 2000. The mission encompassed the UN independent expert Professor John Dugard and fifteen experts. Al Mezan invited eyewitnesses and presented other evidence to the mission, which investigated the perpetration of multiple crimes by IOF in this incident. IOF also targeted an ambulance that tried to help al-Dura and his father and killed its driver, 48-year-old Fayiz Saleem al-Bilbissy.

Nidra Poller: Sue Me Too, Charlie Mon Vieux

Nidra Poller, one the most astute observers of the lamentable scene in 21st Century France wrote an article that she has given permission to put up at The Augean Stables. Above all, she highlights the critical role that the “news broadcast” played as a blood libel. Without that appeal, without the need that it fulfilled, impartial observers would have rapidly seen the pervasive inconsistencies of the “narrative” when compared with the footage. Prescient analysis illustrated well by the attachment that “progressive” journalists like Tom Segev and Gideon Levy show for the tale even if it’s staged.

SUE ME TOO CHARLIE MON VIEUX
Nidra Poller
Paris 27 October 2006

During this period of infamous “al-Dura” trials, which I have been covering closely for Pajamas Media, I spend a lot of time with colleagues who, like me, have been striving to erase the vicious al-Dura blood libel relayed by France 2 in September 2000 and still going strong. This affair is a bit like last summer’s Hizbullah war: no one wins, no one loses, and the verdict pronounced in the court of public opinion is just one more skirmish in an endless war.

I want to write the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about the al-Dura affair. A text that will take life, live and breathe, go forth in the world, take action, obtain results. A supertext that will soar over the heads of Gotham, Sodom & Gomorra, Paris, and El Buredj, swoop down on the villains, knock their heads together, and restore the harmony of the universe.

Charles Enderlin and France 2 are on a winning streak in the French courts. Victorious against Philippe Karsenty, Maître Amblard used the same arguments against Pierre Lurçat, and will most likely attack Dr. Gouz with carbon copy righteous indignation. She swore that her clients respect freedom of the press, including freedom to criticize journalists, but they cannot accept harsh insulting language. Somehow in the logic of the court you have to find a way to accuse Charles Enderlin and France 2 of lying, Jamal al Dura of play-acting, Talal Abu Rahmeh of filming a staged scene, and all of them of viciously maligning Israel…without using harsh language.

If insults are the problem, why has Charles Enderlin initiated a new round of lawsuit threats, aiming at high profile authors who report on his imbroglio in polite, reserved, journalistically acceptable terms?

Misled by his own sense of self-importance, Enderlin stubbornly defends an unsubstantiated “news report” that collapses after ten seconds of unbiased examination, a worthless news report that has one and only one function—blood libel.

It is fabricated as blood libel, it functions like blood libel, it is maintained on life support only because it is blood libel. Why do normally intelligent people think this slapdash production is a credible news report? Because it is blood libel, blinding blood libel. Why do France 2 and French media and French society defend Charles Enderlin to the point of losing their own honor? In defending Enderlin, a simple messenger boy in this affair, they defend the blood libel he conveyed and, inadvertently, flattering his inflated self-image. Enderlin gets a free ride on a blood libel that could eventually swallow him up in its maw but in the interim enjoys the privilege of pushing himself in your face every time you try to shed light on the blood libel. He gets interviewed by Télérama (but doesn’t seem to have pull with big international media); he or his allies feed information to hapless journalists like Michel Zlotowski, who used to write for the JPost. His mediocre films are shown on French TV, his boring books are published all the way to the USA, his amateurish interpretation of the Mideast conflict is praised by president Chirac. His journalistic qualities can be judged by the way he digs in his heels and insists that the Mohamed al-Dura blood libel is a legitimate news report.

More Fake but “Accurate”: Gideon Levy Weighs in

The Al Durah Affair continues to flush out the practitioners of “post-modern” journalism. Here Gideon Levy expresses his sentiments on the Al Durah case. Interestingly, for someone who regularly reports what Palestinian sources tell him unfiltered by the most minimal standards of skepticism, he seems to have no problem with the possibility that the Al Durah case was staged. How rapidly the lines shift. For the last four years of working on this, anyone claiming it was staged was immediately dismissed as a conspiracy-theory nut. Now even someone as credulous of Palestinian sources is willing to grant that the Palestinians may have staged this one! Of course his fallback position is: it doesn’t matter… we’ve killed so many Palestinian kids, what’s one fake.

Of course, in so doing, he reveals a host of the kinds of misguided thinking that so characterizes the Augean Stables of MSM.

Mohammed al-Dura lives on

By Gideon Levy

The concern Israel demonstrates for the fate of one Palestinian boy touches the heart: Again, note what a fuss is being made about the case of the killing of Mohammed al-Dura. Our heart is impervious to the fate of other children who have been killed. Just little Mohammed continues to haunt us. But the question of who killed al-Dura is not important. And maybe he is even alive, as some eccentrics claim. Perhaps he committed suicide, as the strange investigations are liable to suggest.

The dripping sarcasm recalls the contempt that Israeli journalists expressed towards the efforts of investigators to call the Al Durah footage into question, including the final crack about suicide. Here’s a transcript of a conversation I had right at the beginning with three prominent Israeli journalists. I was in Cafe Ta’amon in Jerusalem in the Fall of 2003, a hangout of journalists that goes back to the pre-state period, and my companion pointed out that two of Israel’s most prominent journalists where sitting there, Nahum Barnea and Meir Shalev.

    RL: Excuse me, I’m an American Professor working on the case of Muhammad al Durah. What do you think happened.
    NB: “It all depends on who did it, but we know too little… possibly Israel didn’t do it. I’m not sure… don’t know enough, but it shows how both sides have too little respect for human life
    many children have died since.
    MS: I don’t know anything about it.
    NB: Here’s Bet Michael (an observant Jew, columnist for Yediot Aharonot), ask him.
    BM: 100%. The israelis killed the boy.
    RL: Really? Are you aware of the investigation and its findings?
    BM: The investigator was a nut… some engineer with the army who argued a conspiracy theory that he kid committed suicide.
    RL: Suicide?
    MS: (to me while BM waxed eloquent to NB) He’s being sarcastic.
    RL: Were you being sarcastic?
    BM: Not at all. I meant every word.
    RL: Suicide?
    BM: Oh, that was sarcastic, but since then the IDF has killed over 200 palestinian children, you can check with B’tselem.

What struck me as so astonishing was the utter abandon with which Bet Michael accused his own people. (At the time I still didn’t understand how profoundly “self-critical” the Israeli media was.) “100% the Israelis killed him,” sounded like something a Palestinian journalist might have said. Given my own experience (by this time I had seen both the Reuters and France2 footage), it was clear that there were very great chances that it wasn’t the Israelis, so 100% was nothing short of gratuitous. Why would an Israeli journalist be so determined to accuse his own side of such a heinous crime?

I have since learned a great deal more about the journalistic culture in Israel, and now realize how naive I was back then. But I do confess that the sarcasm with which Michael dismissed any evidence that might undermine this blood libel that had done so much damage to Israel’s image world-wide and had inspired so much hatred and violence, still has me profoundly disturbed. And here’s Gideon Levy back with more of the same.

All of these are tasteless questions designed to divert attention from the truly important issues: According to data collected by human rights group B’Tselem, Israel is responsible for killing more than 850 Palestinian children and teenagers since al-Dura was killed, including 92 in the past year alone. Last October, we killed 31 children in Gaza.

“Fake but Accurate” — Enderlin’s escape clause

A number of commenters at this site have speculated on the possible response by Enderlin (and France2 and all the others for whom Al Durah is a valuable icon) to the claim that this is staged — maybe, but it’s accurate. As Enderlin put it so succinctly in an interview, the reason that he believed Talal was because:

…pour moi, l’image correspondait à la réalité de la situation non seulement à Gaza, mais aussi en Cisjordanie. [For me, the image corresponded to the reality of the situation not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.]

Now anyone who looks either at the footage from Reuters and from France2 (soon) from that day, can see that the Gaza Strip — certainly Netzarim Junction, which was by all accounts the flashpoint) was not in a violent uproar, but rather the scene of extensive, leisurely and joking, staged scenes of fake action. All Enderlin had to do was look at his own cameraman’s evidence to know this was not the case.

But Enderlin had spent so much time using Talal’s work that he couldn’t even see what was going on. Here was Talal, taking shot after shot of fake action, which Enderlin knew happened all the time, and for 12 years he had worked in full confidence for his boss at France2. In explaining why he ran Talal’s version of events Enderlin notes in the same article:

D’abord, parce que, au moment de la diffusion, le correspondant de France 2 à Gaza, Talal, qui a filmé la scène, indiquait que tel était le cas. Là, je dois répéter que, journaliste reporteur d’images, Talal travaille en toute confiance pour notre chaîne depuis 1988. Dans les jours suivants, d’autres témoignages – de journalistes et de certaines sources – sont venus me confirmer les faits.

[First of all, because at the time of the broadcast, the correspondent for France2 in Gaza, Talal, who filmed the scene, said that it (i.e., Israeli fire) was the case. On that subject, I have to repeat that, journalist and reporter of images, Talal works in complete confidence for our channel since 1988. In subsequent days other testimony -- from journalists (all Palestinian) and certain sources (UN?) confirmed the facts (sic).]

So this cameraman, who had worked for him for 12 years, and was still sending him 99.44% pure Pallywood footage, worked for him in complete confidence. What kind of a fool is Enderlin?

But let’s return to the question of “fake but accurate” which so many people have raised with me (both those hostile to Israel and those afraid of bringing up the issue again: “So what if it’s a fake? The Israelis have killed hundreds of children.”) This is, by the way, the operating principle of Pallywood. As the PA TV official explained to Esther Schapira, they inserted an Israeli soldier from another day into the footage to make it look like he shot Al Durah in cold blood, because:

These are forms of artistic expression, but all of this serves to convey the truth… We never forget our higher journalistic principles to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.

In addition to the obvious response, that it’s not the journalist’s job to tell us his myth, but to report accurately, the scandal here is that Enderlin didn’t report the news, he made the news.

Troubles au Bureau du Premier Ministre

Menahem Macina, one of the most astute observers of the Al Durah affair has a post about the disagreement within the Prime Minister’s office over the letter sent by Dani Seaman of the Government Press Office. Although the Israeli media had touted it as a statement from the PM’s office, it was drafted by Seaman and appears not to have gotten the formal approval of the PM. Macina, who had expressed his astonishment at these reports (I knew they were wrong the second I heard them), points out at the end of his piece that it would be very problematic for Olmert, who’s trying hard to make nice to the PA and Abu Mazen, to push something like this — an attack on a martyr — right now. I know that repeatedly in the years I worked on this, people who thought they were serving the cause of peace, tried to shut me down (talk at a major California University canceled because the chair called the Israeli consulate and was told that I was against the peace process and not to have me come).

Indeed this opposition led me to write an essay on Al Durah and the peace process.

In the meantime, this dissent in the Israeli government will reveal a) just why the Israeli government has done nothing so far (how shrill and aggressive the voices opposed to the story), and b) whether or not there’s been a substantive shift in Israeli government circles.

Al-Dura: La lettre de D. Seaman n’aurait pas reçu l’aval du Bureau du Premier ministre
Je donne cette information, en ‘breaking News’, sous toutes réserves, et – très franchement – en espérant qu’elle n’est pas fondée. Mais le devoir d’un site qui se respecte est de tenir ses internautes au courant des fluctuations de l’actualité, surtout s’agissant d’une affaire aussi délicate que celle-ci.
Imprimer Envoyer à un ami
05/10/07

On se souvient de l’émotion qu’avait suscitée le contenu de la lettre du Directeur du Service de Presse, qui reprenait à son compte les nombreuses et tenaces accusations de mise en scène du reportage de la mort, réelle ou supposée, de l’enfant palestinien, Mohammed Al-Dura, le 30 septembre 2000. Ces accusations, rappelons-le, étaient formulées, depuis plusieurs années par des personnes privées ayant réalisé ou fait réaliser des analyses détaillées des rushes disponibles, et qui en avaient conclu que l’affaire avait été montée de toutes pièces.

L’effet de cette nouvelle, que j’avais comparée à un “véritable tremblement de terre”, avait été d’autant plus grand, que la quasi-totalité des journalistes israéliens avaient imputé la lettre au gouvernement d’Israël, en usant de phrases telles que « Israël affirme… », « Israël reconnaît… ». Certains, comme Yediot Aharonot allant même jusqu’à profiter du fait que le Service de Presse israélien est rattaché au Bureau du Premier ministre pour attribuer à celui-ci la fameuse lettre de Dany Seaman. Tout semblait confirmer le caractère rigoureusement officiel de cette affirmation sensationnelle, et l’ensemble de la presse mondiale s’en était fait l’écho, parfois avec emphase, et apparemment sans se poser de question.

Mais plusieurs faits troublants semblent de nature à ébranler cette certitude.

Hormis l’un ou l’autre initié, pratiquement personne n’a pris garde à une petite phrase, qui figurait pourtant dans les premiers articles de presse en hébreu. Par exemple, sous la forme suivante :

« Le Bureau du Premier ministre, affirme à la Chaîne 10 israélienne qu’il n’a pas reçu cette lettre et qu’il n’y a pas donné son accord. » (4ème paragraphe d’un article (en hébreu), mis en ligne le 2 octobre sur le site israélien Nana.)

Selon une source bien informée, qui a requis l’anonymat, il s’agirait d’un coup de force de Dany Seaman, acquis depuis longtemps à la thèse d’une mise en scène des journalistes de France 2, et qui aurait profité des pressions énergiques de l’association de juristes internationaux “Shourat haDin”, pour, en quelque sorte, forcer le destin. On se souvient que Shourat haDin avait demandé au Service de Presse de retirer leur accréditation aux journalistes de France 2 et menacé de poursuivre les journalistes en justice.

La même source précise que, dans l’édition papier du Haarets du 3 octobre, « un bref article, signé par Itamar Eichner, titrait que le bureau du Premier ministre n’avait pas approuvé cette lettre. »

Et d’ajouter :

« Même son de cloche sur Galei Tsahal, le matin du même jour, où l’on affirmait que le Bureau du Premier ministre ignorait tout du contenu de la lettre. »

Toujours selon cette même source au moins deux journalistes travaillant dans de grands journaux israéliens rapportent qu’« Olmert n’a pas du tout apprécié la chose ».

Vérité ou intox ? Ce qui est sûr, en tout cas, c’est que le secrétaire du gouvernement a bien confirmé que le contenu de la lettre n’a pas reçu l’aval de l’Etat.

J’avais déjà fait part de ma surprise de ce que le gouvernement ait pris le risque d’une initiative susceptible d’endommager gravement les relations entre Israël et l’Autorité Palestinienne, précisément à quelques semaines du sommet israélo-palestinien qui doit avoir lieu prochainement aux Etats-Unis. Force m’est de constater – même si c’est avec regret – que mes inquiétudes étaient fondées.

Menahem Macina

© Upjf.org

Interview on Shire News with Tom Paine

Here’s a link to a podcast of an interview with me about the Al Durah affair, for those who find my posts interminably long.